The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Pagliai’s Pizza building could potentially become historical landmark

Despite the city’s Historic Preservation Commission’s intentions, the building’s owner said he does not want the building to be landmarked.
Sahithi Shankaiahgari
Pagliai’s Pizza is seen in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.

The building that houses Pagliai’s Pizza may become a designated historical landmark in Iowa City in the future. However, the building’s owner said he has no desire to recognize the building. 

Iowa City’s Historic Preservation Commission discussed potentially landmarking the building, located at 302 E. Bloomington St., at its Oct. 12 meeting. 

The building, which houses Pagliai’s that opened in 1875, was built by Joseph Slezak, who is the great, great grandfather of the building’s owner Gary Skarda. Ownership of the building has been passed down from generation to generation in Skarda’s family.

In the 1870s, the building was home to a dance hall, a hotel, a grocery store, a saloon, and a Bohemian restaurant. The Slezak’s were of Bohemian descent, and the building served as a major cultural center for the Bohemian community in Iowa City, according to Our Iowa Heritage.

Pagliai’s Pizza has operated the building since 1957, and the building also currently houses several apartment units and a laundromat. 

In September, the building was put up for sale for $5 million. The Iowa City Assessor’s website lists the building’s value as a little over $1.5 million.

Jordan Sellergren, the Historic Preservation Commission’s chair, said the building has a rich history and even some original architecture and materials still intact, yet it does not have any protections to prevent it from being torn down and redeveloped in the future.

“The story of buildings is just fascinating, and it would be a shame to lose it,” Sellergren said. “Developers are hungry to develop, and a lot of times, they will overlook history in order to put up something new.”

At the Oct. 12 commission meeting, Sellergren said the commission came to an informal consensus that they would like to pursue landmarking the property, but no official governmental action has taken place yet as the commission and owner still need to meet to discuss.

At the meeting, a handful of members from the public spoke about wanting the building to be landmarked, including Bob Miklo, who said this building is one of the few left in Iowa City that has such a rich history and character. 

As reported by the DI, Skarda said the decision to put the building on the market was a difficult one, but one he had to make because he is unable to continue caring for and maintaining the building after having his right leg amputated. 

RELATED: Pagliai’s Pizza fifth generation building owner to sell property

Skarda said recognizing the building as a historic landmark could hurt the marketability of the building. If the building is landmarked, any potential buyers would not be able to tear it down and redevelop it, and the building’s proximity to downtown makes it too valuable to give up in this way, he said. 

While he does not want to make the building a historic landmark, Skarda said he would be fine with the city purchasing the building from him and doing whatever they want with it.

“If [the city] would want to buy the property, that’s fine. They can leave it the way it is if they want to buy it,” Skarda said. “Otherwise, I’m going to sell it to the highest bidder.”

Even though the building is privately owned, Jessica Bristow, the city’s historic preservation planner, said the city can still legally go through with landmarking the property. 

However, if the building’s owner contests this, that will force the city council to have to come to a supermajority, which is six affirmative votes, when they vote on the landmark designation. 

In terms of next steps, the Historic Preservation Commission still has yet to meet with Skarda to discuss this possibility, Bristow said. If the commission decides to recommend the building be landmarked, it will then be voted on by the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission.

After going through planning and zoning commission, the item will finally go before the city council for them to vote upon. An exact timeline of when these steps may be taken is not currently known.

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.